A to Z Challenge: Q (John Williams’ film scores)

*Read John Williams’ biography here

Superman IV: The Quest for Peace
The 1987 fourth (and final original) Superman movie again stars Christopher Reeve, with Gene Hackman returning as Lex Luthor, and Sidney J Furie directing. In this movie, Superman’s nemesis, Lex Luthor, creates and evil solar-powered version of Superman called Nuclear Man

John Williams was the composer on the first movie and scored the well known main Superman theme (the first of the two clips below). It’s said that Williams liked that the film had a theatrical camp feel to it and didn’t take itself too seriously. This score was nominated for an Oscar for Best Original Score but lost to Midnight Express.

It was hoped that Williams would return for Superman IV but due to scheduling conflicts he was unavailable. Instead he recommended his friend and collaborator Alexander Courage and also agreed to contribute some new material. The result was that Courage adapted Williams themes, meaning the score isn’t attributed to Williams, but three arrangements on the soundtrack are original Williams compositions (the second clip below).

The original Williams compositions were attached to three new characters:
– Lacy’s Theme: she’s set her sights on Clark Kent and this motif is a sultry, sexy one with a tenor saxaphone solo featuring
– Jeremy’s Theme: this a young boy who asks Superman to eliminate nuclear weapons from the world and his light and joyous
– Nuclear Man Theme: used when Superman fights Nuclear Man. This piece is dark and dramatic. However I did read a comment that when you play this softly it has a comedic feel which has overtones of some of Williams’ later work (check out the upcoming “H” post for comparision…)

Which is your favourite motif? Mine is the original Superman Theme – I’ve always loved a good fanfare.

10 comments on “A to Z Challenge: Q (John Williams’ film scores)

  1. Giggling Fattie

    April 19, 2019 at 9:31 pm

    Oooo I used to watch these movies all the time!! Loved them!

    • I remember watching the first movie at a sleepover at the sailing hall as part of a learn to sail weekend when I was just a kid. I thought is was incredible then (although my Barbarians laugh at the effects now).

  2. Q is for Quest, well done! 🙂

    I did watch the Adventures of Lois and Clark, she was a bit of a hero to me because of her kicking butts qualities and her stunning looks. Of course, Clark aka Superman wasn’t bad either!


    • Thanks,Tamara. I was relieved when I found this one! There are a couple of tricky letters that can throw a great theme out the window, but luckily John Williams has been very prolific!

  3. Yes, the Superman theme is one of Williams’ best. I think I’d given up on these movies by number four.

  4. I haven’t seen this one – the first two were wonderful, the third not so good, but I heard the fourth was even worse than the third, so I didn’t bother. Alexander Couragre is good, though – remember, it’s thanks to him we have another iconic score: original Star Trek!

    • I think they all knew when they were making this one it wasn’t going to be good. The ratings supported the casts’ opinion. And yes, I learnt that about Alexander Couragre in researching this post. I guess the best work with the best, don’t they?

  5. That’s so interesting about the different character themes. I had fun listening, but I agree, it’s hard to beat the original fanfare!

    • Character themes are a really common feature of movies. It’s almost subliminal, in that we hear the music but don’t knowingly think about the association to the character or situation. But our subconscious starts to put it together and that’s how they help manipulate our emotions. I think it’s pretty cool =)

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